Bhutan – The Last Shangri La
Oft read, Rudyard Kipling, in his very famous quote sums up the effect the Himalayas have on every traveller’s mind ,body ,heart and soul who has witnessed the in all their majesty. He says:-
“That is the true smell of the Himalayas, and if once it creeps into the blood of a man, that man will at the last, forgetting all else, return to the hills to die.”
There are very places in the world as mystical, as enticing, as grand and as well romanticized across the annals of history and literature as the Himalayas.
A very beautiful yet a sadly forgotten place lays in the heart of the Himalayas- the landlocked country of Bhutan. Bhutan has often been called “the Last Shangri La” because of the pristine and beautiful environment and the ethereal sights on offer.
Bhutan is exemplary for preserving its culture and heritage along with welcoming technology with open arms. There are internet cafes, pubs along with the wonderfully old monasteries existing side by side. It is very peaceful, blissfully quaint and as cut off from the world as connected to it simultaneously.
One can reach Bhutan by taking a flight to Paro from Kolkata and Delhi or take a 5 hour drive from Siliguri to reach Jaigaon, the last town on the India- Bhutan border. On reaching Jaigaon, you are only greeted by a large gate separating Jaigaon and Pheuntsholing , the first town on the other side of the gate in Bhutan. One can see a stark difference between these towns, in terms of town planning and the landscaping with the Bhutanese counterpart appearing much more organized, cleaner and well maintained. The capital of Bhutan is Thimpu, another 6 hour drive from Pheuntsholing along the topsy- turvy snake-like mountainous roads of the Himalayas. However, the drive itself is a wonderful experience with some unforgettable sights and scenes (a light drizzle does help matters a lot!). The sharply dropping ravines, bubbling brooks and the pine trees greet you all along the way making for an unforgettable experience.
Thimpu lies in western Bhutan, along with Paro, containing Bhutan’s main airport. Another major town yet the least visited place is Ha, having the queen’s ancestral home. Other districts include Wangdue Phodrang, Punakha and Gasa. If you are visitng this part of the country, you should not miss out on the three Megaliths of Dagana Village, the 17th century monasteries in Chhuka Village and the Royal Manas National Park near Gelephu which is located in southern Bhutan.
The eastern part of the country is for the adventure tourists. This is the lease explored part of the country and offers magnificent views of towering cliffs and an opportunity to see and experience the mountains in all their majesty. The landmarks here are Kurje Lhakhang, built in 1652 where Guru Rimpoche meditated. Mebar Tesho a sacred lake having great religious significance. This region is also famous for the Watchtowers of Trongsa Musuem, an ancient watchtower converted into a museum providing great insight into Bhutanese history. The forests here are homes to a large variety of flora and fauna. Thrimshungla National Park, located in the central part of the country, is home to rare and endangered birds like Rufous-necked hornbill, chestnut-breasted partridge.
Bhutan- a speck of paradise, mystical, lyrical and unexplored. A place to visit before you die. The Last Shangri La!
Image courtesy:- www.tourism.gov.bt